Six-degrees-of-separation

Degrees of Separation

The six-degrees-of-separation concept posits that any two people on earth are only six or fewer acquaintance links apart. At this point in my parenting journey, I thought there would never be more than one degree of separation between me and my children. After all, I can text them whenever I want. I can and should be able to get to them in the blink of an eye or by a tap on my smartphone. Yet the text I sent my younger son two days ago remains unanswered. He’s busy. He’s working. He’s helping his older brother and his wife move. He’s living his life—apart from me.

My mother always said, “Be careful what you wish for,” and she was right. I wished for my children to be able to live lives that mattered, to be able to take care of themselves and others—to be independent. And they are. They live two thousand miles away from me, and I have to remember—I’m the one who moved!

But this independence thing may not be all it’s cracked up to be. Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful that at this point we are no longer supporting our children financially. That, my friends, is an accomplishment worth celebrating. Sometimes, though, it’s other types of support I miss. Where there was fellowship, emotional caretaking, and spiritual navigation, there’s now a void. And the fact that I now have to watch The Walking Dead alone doesn’t help.

When I think back to how this state of independence came to be, I see it didn’t just happen. My husband, Chip, and I planned it. We put this in motion when we encouraged our firstborn to wait ten more minutes before we picked him up out of his crib and he slept through the night. I guess it probably happened even sooner than that. After all, we did cut the umbilical cord after birth. The first degree of separation between mother and child is natural and life-giving.

Be careful what you wish for? Yes, definitely, because it certainly might come true. For example, we want our child to sleep through the night, so we encourage him to do so, and then he doesn’t need us to sleep through the night. He is able to sleep through the night because we wanted him to. See how that works? It’s important to remember that you are still connected even if it takes a child three days to answer his mother’s text.

REWARDS

REWARDS

2 Cor 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

REWARDS

The Scriptures teach that it is not mercenary to be motivated by reward; instead, Jesus encouraged us to long to hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness” (Matthew 25:21,23). The New Testament is replete with invitations to pursue God’s rewards, affirming that they will prove to be more than worth the cost. “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).

The fact that God will reward us for faithful responses to opportunities should have some motivational impact on the way we live. It clearly affected the manner in which godly people in Scripture led their lives. C. S. Lewis argued in his marvelous sermon “The Weight of Glory” that our problem is not that our desires are too strong, but that they are too weak. “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” In comparison to what God wants to give us, the best this world can offer is toys, trinkets and tinsel.

OBEDIENCE TO GOD

OBEDIENCE TO GOD

Most of what God requires is so easy and beneficial that we obey without even thinking about it. A smaller number of commands require discipline, commitment, accountability groups—some intentional decisions and maintenance. But periodically, the leader finds they are backed into a corner. That’s when it’s crunch time: “Obey God and lose the deal,” “Obey God and kill the chance for a promotion.” For these three young men it was, “Obey God and lose your life.”

For Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—and for all of us—obedience at that level requires a clear conviction. At that level, obedience is never based on what’s at stake, what’s to be gained or lost. It is only based on what’s real. To these three men the furnace was real. The threat on their life was real. The choice they faced was real. But, more importantly, so was the sovereign God.

For these three young men, this issue was highly focused. Although two conflicting orders were given, the issue wasn’t so much “What was the order?” but “Who gave it?” For these three, the order of a king who could take their lives would never take precedence over the will of Almighty God. Their story of courage has inspired untold numbers of believers who have faced the fire—both literally and figuratively—over the centuries. Let their courage work its way into your life as well.

Vision

Vision

“Vision”

One of the things I love about this righteous man in Psalm 112 is that he clearly lives a life that goes well beyond himself. When it says, “he has dispersed abroad,” it speaks of one whose life has a far-reaching and wide-ranging impact on others.

There are those who never seem to move forward in life because their vision is small. Instead of continuing to grow and expand their life, they prefer to be a big fish in a small pond. In doing so, they limit their own potential. The Bible says: “Where there is no vision, the people perish…” (Proverbs 29:18 KJV)

Having a dream or specific goal will add direction and purpose to your life. Jesus knew He was born for the cause of God’s Kingdom and understood that His connection to the world revolved around that cause. You and I are also born for the cause, which involves living a life with influence that goes well beyond ourselves.

It is easy to get caught up in the stress and pressure of everyday life, working to pay the bills and to put food on your table. But with a big-hearted spirit, you will begin to think about dispersing abroad in terms of what you can do for others, and putting food on many other tables.

It is impossible to have a vision that is bigger than God’s plans for your life. His plans are HUGE. As God blesses your life, keep expanding and looking beyond yourself to bless others and build His Kingdom.

YOUR SPHERE OF LIFE

What’s your dream? What’s your vision? Write them down and bring them before God in prayer. It’s impossible for you to have a dream or vision too big for God. He wants to bring those dreams to life and build His Kingdom through you! Believe that today.

Abundance indeed!!

Abundance indeed!!

“Abundance”

Another promise of God is that wealth and riches will be in your house. I know there are those who would be more comfortable if the verse said wealth and riches will be in his heart rather than in his house. They are the ones who wrestle with the fact that abundance is the promise of God for their lives.

A friend of mine once had a conversation with a pastor who criticized this kind of thinking and yet shared how desperate their church was for a youth pastor, but lacked the necessary funds to hire one. You see, without money, it’s hard (as a ministry, a business, a family) to fulfill the Kingdom endeavors that are in your heart.

Some Christians struggle with the idea of being blessed because they presume that wealth and greed are the same thing, but they are not. Our Heavenly Father, like any loving parent, does not mind if His children are financially blessed. But bear in mind that wealth and riches are just one aspect of an abundant life — it goes further than material goods. John wrote: “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers” (3 John 1:2).

A truly prosperous person desires the fullness of God in every area of their life and understands that God wants to bless them so they can bless others. As Jesus said in John 10:10, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”

YOUR SPHERE OF LIFE

God wants you to prosper in every area of your life, both physically and spiritually. He rejoices in blessing you because out of the abundance of His life flowing through you, you can bless others! Receive that truth today.

Blessed!

Blessed!

“Blessing”

“Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) is the man who fears (reveres and worships) the Lord” is the way the Amplified Bible (AMPC) translates the first verse of Psalm 112.

Throughout the Bible, God consistently promises to bless His people, but His blessing also depends on our choices. He puts two clear choices before people: “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).

The book of Deuteronomy in the Old Testament contains a list of blessings and a list of curses which were directly linked to whether one chose to obey or disobey the commandments of the Lord. You can read these in Deuteronomy 28:1-14, but understand that to choose life with God is to choose a blessed life. God’s will is always to bless you, but if you think His blessing is entirely for you, you are missing the point.

The blessing of God in your life should go well beyond your own existence. God told Abraham that He would bless him, but the purpose of blessing him went far beyond his own life. This is what God said:

“I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing” (Genesis 12:2).

The purpose of God’s blessing is to enable you to be a great channel of blessing to others. If you have nothing, there is nothing you can do for anyone else; if you have a little, you can only help a little; but if you have plenty, there is a whole lot you can do. When you are blessed, you have a mighty foundation from which to impact others. You are blessed to be a blessing.

YOUR SPHERE OF LIFE

God’s will is to bless you, so set your heart to honor Him in every portion of your day. Choose life, and be a blessing to the people God has placed around you in your sphere of influence!

“Praise The Lord”

“Praise The Lord”

“Praise The Lord”

Praise the Lord! Within those three words is the powerful beginning and foundation of a blessed life. It starts with knowing who God is and praising Him.

Praise is always a starting point.  It means thankfulness — that is why we give thanks before  a meal and start church with songs of praise.  Jesus began to thank God before Lazarus was raised from the dead, and Moses praised God before He parted the Red Sea. Human nature likes to wait until after an answer is received, but blessing begins with praise.

The Word of God tells us to “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise” (Psalm 100:4). Yet praising the Lord is not limited to singing a few songs once a week in a church service. Worship is a lifestyle that embraces the entire spectrum of life.

You can praise God at any hour of the day, seven days a week — in the car, the shower or the middle of night. It isn’t about singing a particular hymn or reciting a prayer — it’s about a relationship with your Heavenly Father who loves and cares for you.

People have different ideas of what God is like, and they communicate with Him according to their perception. Those who think He is rigid and austere keep their distance. Others, who see Him as formal and stiff, usually approach Him in the same way. Yet those who know Him as Father and Friend enjoy the blessing of a close, intimate relationship with Him — where you can call on Him anytime. No matter what situation you may be in, you are never alone.

Circumstances can begin to turn around when you start praising God. Not only does praise put Him in focus, but it also causes you to see things from a whole new perspective.

Praising God is more than a ritual or one-time event. It’s a lifestyle of worship — it enables you to place your focus on God, and it changes your perspective of the circumstances around you. So go forth today in your God-given calling with this declaration as your foundation:

“Praise the Lord!”

Psalms 112:1  Praise the Lord!Blessed is the man who fears the Lord,who greatly delights in his commandments!

Psalms 100:4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,and his courts with praise!Give thanks to him; bless his name!

I want to be more spiritual, less worldly

I want to be more spiritual, less worldly

Here’s one of our dilemmas as Christians: God made a beautiful world for us to live in. It is full of treats, attractions, and sensory delights, all of which he made to bring us pleasure. Travel, golf, cabernets, gardening, web surfing, scotch, dancing, and zip-lining are all great fun. But all of them can also turn into time wasters, money pits, addictions, and ultimately harmful distractions from developing our relationship with God.

How do you know when your love for these things is getting unhealthy? When they stoke your own self-absorbed narcissism. When you’re too busy to go to church. When there is no time in the week for reading your Bible.

When your life is too full to accept a ministry role in your congregation. When your relationships with other family members are fraying. If you are not sure if any of these things applies to you, ask someone in your family.

What to do? “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.” (1 Peter 2:2) Take inventory of the things that you know really matter.

Is God where he belongs in your life—on the throne? Is your spouse still your number-one person? Are you risking your job and income with your passions? Are you spending enough time with your children?

Grow in your ability to enjoy God’s treats without becoming worldly. How would you live if you knew you had only a week left?

THE GIFT-SEED

THE GIFT-SEED

A man was browsing in a store where he made the shocking discovery that God was behind a sales counter. So the man walked over and asked, “What are you selling?” God replied, “What does your heart desire?” The man said, “I want happiness, peace of mind and freedom from fear – for me and the whole world.” God smiled and said, “I don’t sell fruit here. Only seeds.”

Seeds are a source of life which keeps multiplying. I’m quite certain that they were lying around, eavesdropping too, when God told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply! Seeds which had been lying dormant for thousands of years in the pyramids of Egypt sprang to life and yielded grain when planted. If we have to sow a pumpkin to reap a pumpkin, the earth would soon run out of space, don’t you think? God is not going to hand you a huge, prize-winning pumpkin tipping the scales at over 2,000 pounds and expect you to use it effectively for His purposes. Firstly, you are going to be crushed under its colossal weight.

Secondly, you can never hope to lift it, shift it or gift it. Thirdly, its sheer size and weight is going to deter you from ever using it. So God in His infinite wisdom hands you a flat, asymmetrically oval, unpromising-looking seed with the assurance that He will keep adding while you keep sowing your gift-seed. In a time of famine, Isaac stepped out in faith, sowed in the land and reaped a hundredfold, not immediately but in due time. All healthy growth takes a little time, but patience and perseverance will bring it to fruition. Isaac prospered to such an extant that he soon became the envy of his neighbors.

In Romans, Chapter 12, we come across a host of instructions, each with the potential to be exercised as a gift – social service, hospitality, empathizing with people in their joys and sorrows, associating with the humble, patience, diligence, kindness – look on these as gift-seeds within you and develop them to reflect God’s grace in your life. Baby steps today will result in giant strides in the future. Step out in faith and say with confidence, “Yes! I am gifted!”

SEED GROWTH

SEED GROWTH

Christian ministry involves a variety of gifts, some more distinguished and out in the open, while others are subtle and unassuming, hidden by a cloak of simplicity. Each gift is molded to the personality traits of the one who possesses it but not always. Unlikely people are sometimes called upon to perform extraordinarily, and similar to wearing tight shoes, which begin to conform and fit over time, you start fitting into that gift which you felt was not meant for you in the first place.

Every gift is important to the ministry of God and the extension of His kingdom. In a king’s palace, there are not only vessels of gold, silver, bronze and brass, but also the lowly earthen pots, the scooped-out gourds and the wooden bowls and ladles. Some of these accomplish their work at the king’s table, while others quietly serve in the background, each one needed to complement the other. The parts of our body too are interdependent, functioning properly because of the work of the hidden members.

In the matter of gifting, according to 1 Cor. 14:1, desire spiritual gifts. The Holy Spirit is infinite and limitless in variety when He hands out seed. Just as physical workouts build stamina and promote good health, our gifts begin to yield thirty, sixty and even a hundredfold when we start exercising them. 1 Cor. 7:7 informs us that each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that. Your part may involve planting the seed. Another may be assigned to water it. Both of you may not even see the results of your efforts, but be sure you will earn the rewards just as surely as the one who reaps the harvest. One cannot happen without the other.

Storms, dark pathways, dinghy wells and tunnels are all part of the package, and we have to learn to carry our burdens with our focus being on God’s promise, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

To see fruit above, we have to first take root below. Sow in faith, reap in joy!